Napster's prospects as the internet music revolution's Che Guevara dimmed considerably on Monday when a federal appeals court said the wildly popular song-swapping service must stop its millions of users from downloading copyrighted music. Although the court stopped short of shutting Napster down, its chances of survival remain far from certain.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals overwhelmingly sided with the recording industry, which has been at war with Napster for more than 18 months.
"Napster, by its conduct, knowingly encourages and assists the infringement of plaintiffs' copyrights," the panel said. But it went on to say a lower-court ruling that effectively would have shut down the Redwood City, California, start-up was "over-broad" and sent it back for further deliberations.
In the UK the press was sceptical about Napster's future after the ruling. Daily tabloids and broadsheets alike have seen this move as a portent of doom.
As for the vox pop, it seems visitors to PC Advisor's website think people using Napster are wrong for taking money out the pockets of musicians, but that the record industry is deluding itself if it thinks this kind of service has no place.
"I think it is wrong to download music that is copyrighted," thinks Norrie Harper, "but the high price of music in this country makes it a tempting proposition for some people."
Peter Thomas thinks the record industry will eventually buckle. "We can argue that music should be cheaper, and that may well be the case, but surely there can be no good argument for it being free? Ultimately I think we'll see the recording companies accept that this concept is here to stay, and they'll set up their own pay-per-track download sites."
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